LOS ANGELES, CA – MetroAir COO William Hogarth announced today the beginning of airline operations at Los Angeles International Airport, which will include six domestic routes and one international route. Hogarth revealed MetroAir would begin flying to LAX from each of their hubs and focus cities (Kansas City, Baltimore, Ontario, Chicago, Portland, and Fort Lauderdale), as well as launch a daily flight to Shanghai’s Pudong Airport. All LAX service is scheduled to begin on May 11th.
The Shanghai flight marks the second international route announcement for MetroAir in the past week, which comes after the delivery of 4 new Boeing 777-300ERs to the airline. Executives gave multiple reasons for originating the Shanghai flight at LAX, citing lack of gate space at Ontario and the wish to appeal to a larger international market located closer to LAX. Currently, Ontario’s international operations are restricted due to the limited number of international gates as well as physical space on the airport property. “The Boeing 777-300ER has a wingspan of 212 feet. Due to its size, the 777 closes two adjacent gates when parked at Ontario,” said Fleet and Route Director Zak Winnick, “We do our best to move the aircraft off gate to remote stands when they’re not needed, but when we have multiple international arrivals or departures at the same time, it puts a serious damper on our overall operations.” For these reasons, international operations have historically been limited at Ontario despite being located in the second largest metropolitan area in the United States. For comparison, Ontario has only seven destinations outside North and Central America, compared to 21 at Baltimore.
After a few months of research, the operations department found gate availability in LAX’s Terminal 3 and put together an operations plan. Of the 13 gates in Terminal 3, Virgin America own three outright and are the majority occupier of another 4. The remaining common use gates are shared between Allegiant, JetBlue, Spirit, Frontier, and US Airways. MetroAir plans to utilize two gates to operate their domestic flights with Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft.
Mr. Hogarth explained the LAX operation in further detail, “While it may seem not seem realistic to start these routes at LAX, it does make quite a bit of sense when digging down into it. For the domestic routes to our hubs and focus cities, LAX is nothing more than another outstation like Austin or Denver. The Shanghai route will be operated out of the Tom Bradley International Terminal which utilizes the CUTE airport system (Common Use Terminal Equipment), allowing us to operate with very little overhead. Essentially all we need to operate out of the TBIT are staff, which will already be right next door in Terminal 3.”
So what does this mean for passengers flying into LAX or those wanting to fly to Shanghai? The domestic LAX flights are aimed at O&D passengers that wish to travel to the Los Angeles area and have destinations closer to LAX. It is anticipated that the majority of the Shanghai passengers will be local O&D from the Los Angeles area, but the flights from the hubs and focus cities will feed additional passengers from all over the country. Furthermore, Allegius Airlines will be operating a five time daily shuttle (operated by a Bombardier Dash 8 Q200) between Ontario and LAX for passengers that may live in cities without service to LAX.
When asked about future plans for the Los Angeles area, CEO Matt Calsada said, “We have absolutely no intentions of leaving Ontario or the Inland Empire, we are the leading carrier at Ontario and have strong ties to the San Bernadino Valley community. Our presence at LAX is an attempt to appeal to the larger Southern California metropolitan area. It is hard not to jump at the opportunity of occupying a few gates at LAX, the largest airport in the United States in terms of O&D numbers.”
Historically, MetroAir has never had scheduled service to LAX, but used to be a regular visitor to Burbank Airport in the Fernando Valley after acquiring CirrusAir in 2010. The Burbank station was closed just 6 months after the integration of the two airlines and all Cirrus staff were consolidated into the Ontario hub. Since then, MetroAir has not served any other Los Angeles area airports with mainline service.
From a virtual airline perspective, MetroAir executives are hopeful that the pilots are excited about the opportunity to fly into one of the world’s busiest airports. ZLA and LAX are some of the most popular and commonly staffed positions on the VATSIM network which will allow pilots to fly with full ATC during many hours of the day.